Back home, I have a minor ant problem. Tiny, occasional black dots in constant motion; not enough to qualify as an infestation and it reminds me we all have our job to do. Perhaps they’ve hitchhiked in on the recycled cedar boards I’ve covered all the sheet-rocked walls with, giving the cottage an instantly aged, gray antiquity to it. Either way, a sure sign of spring, and I make a note to pick up some Pennyroyal at Annye’s. Life is a random gift: At the dump this Sunday, at the Take it or Leave It pile, I discover a sheepskin coverlet with a bright tartan plaid on one side, and it becomes Brown Dog’s new evening bed. He sighs and lays his weary old bones down.

April 7; Nantucket’s Annual Town Meeting begins tonight, with votes for planning board and Historic District Commission openings, and the usual suspects elbow each other along the High School road for placard room. I once ran for a spot on the Selectman’s Board, indignant with the ostentatious outcroppings of trophy houses on the island, what I termed, in a newspaper interview, as an ‘architectural holocaust’, which became my defacto platform. It resonated, and people gave me equal odds. Heavy on hyperbole and the belly fire of the tree-hugging penitent, I believed I might actually make a difference, but then, a few weeks from the election, when a dark cloud of an epiphany crossed my political firmament, I withdrew from the race and gave my loyal voter block over to an old friend, a much wiser and able candidate, a darkly funny, very Jewish scallop fisherman slash gourmet caterer with an aerospace engineering masters degree, who ended up winning by not much more than a few totally-disgruntled-with-the-status-quo souls. For once, my surrender had actually made a difference; like the Buddha says, retreat gracefully.

It’s all such a game. Sometimes I divide my day up, like an intriguing pie made of strange fruit. This morning, on the way to work, while parked in the lumber yard, I returned a voicemail call from Sergeant Klaus, the Polar Bear’s attack investigator. He had left a message for me yesterday afternoon, too late for me to call back, which I detest. Virgo Boy likes to cross things from The List, and besides, unfunny phone messages from un-ironic public employees, especially uniformed men in black leather lace-ups freak me the fuck out. But it actually took our minds off the appeal waiting dance last night, for a little while, pondering what was up with Sgt. Klaus. We took turns guessing, and ticked off the possibilities: Fone Bone was one, but unlikely. The ghouls who monitor our calls seem to take a prurient delight in two old fogies bringing each other off in under thirty seconds but they surely would have done something by now. Another guess was Diane Berstein, the parole harpy who you say has a definite bi-polar irregularity running her show. I had told Tom Clark about her gross negligence in processing your parole file, the laundry list of factual infelicities which revealed to the board an entirely different offender, and who could blame them when they voted to deny. Blame it instead on Diane, who also told you parole appellants were not allowed to have legal counsel, and that, we surmise, is the reason for Officer Klaus’s’ message.

In the end, it was none of the above. Tim, the affable CPO who sent me a couple of chapters of his thinly veiled autobiography about prison is being investigated. Sgt. Klauss, on the other end the line, reads questions aloud from a script. Do you know…Have you ever…Would you say…I cannot lie, and answer them as best I can. Yes, yes, no, no, yes, I don’t recall. When the interrogation switches to you, I feel a chill snaking up my spine, remembering how quickly they threw you in the hole in August. It’s possible that Tim has violated prison policy by sending lawyer Ken Resnick your illusive classification, who in turn sent it back to you, so you in turn could submit it as prima facie evidence documents that actually buttressed your appeal. A classic DOC Catch-22: You are allowed, under equal protection of the law, to request all inmate documents, but yet, under the Machiavellian intrigues known only to prison guards, they cannot give them to you. Fuck em, I tell attorney Ken on the phone the next day. You are ethically bound to provide your client with any needful documents, despite the fact that poor, befuddled Tim had expressly told him not to send them back to you. In a choice between your freedom and Tim’s stupid job, guess which one wins? I stop short of telling Sgt. Klaus exactly how constitutionally fucked up I consider this whole charade. I stop short of telling him to get a life, and stop harassing innocent people who actually care, like CPO Tim, a sweet and slightly addled soul who wears his authority not with a swagger, but with a sheepish grin, and therein lies the problem. Sgt. Klaus is the alpha male here, and even me, a hundred miles away from the estrogen-dripping stewpot of seven hundred battered, betrayed and bewildered women, me, sitting in my truck in the Island Lumber parking lot, patiently answering his inane daisy chain of totally pointless questions, shit…I can feel the agitation and the repressed chill of fear rising. Sometimes, when I pass a cop on the road, and they glance my way, I know intuitively how easily they could ruin my life. All the dark ifs and potentials of that relationship. If I were Hispanic, or black, or illegal, or somehow not belonging to the club. Or, God forbid, I did a rolling stop without a brake light, or had a few beers at lunch, or not noticed that my inspection sticker expired yesterday. That’s the same look I get from the Sgt. Klaus’s of the world. Yet I come from a position of both authority and venerability, just barely, and he sniffs out the law-abiding taxpayer in me, even though in his mind I am not much higher than you in the virtual caste system of his mind. He’s heard us come together over the wires, has seen our open-mouthed kisses on the surveillance tapes, has read my letter to the Polar Bear demanding reinstatement of my visiting privileges. And now, he listens carefully to my answers, gauging veracity, his cop antennae up, simply verifying what he already knows. Men like Sgt. Klaus don’t need to know the facts, not really. Just like the men of IPS, that hiss and slither of sneaks in the grass who patrol your world, ferreting out infractions that nobody really know exist, because they’re fluid, and change from day to day, from snake to snake, from woman to woman. I strain against the stiff bridle of the morning, balancing Sgt. Klaus’s interrogatory with my need to get to work, and when he finishes, and I tell him I’ll drop off a copy of Tim’s sad and weary little war story of an ineffectual man stuck in a job he should have left a decade ago, I hang up the phone, feeling the sting and blister of misplaced authority and power, aching for it to just go away and leave us in peace.

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